County of Kern Publishes Drafts of Redistricting Maps, Which Could Change the Balance of Power in Supervisory Board | New
Kern County has released the first look at how surveillance districts could be redesigned to account for new population counts gleaned from the latest census.
On Thursday, the county unveiled a series of proposed maps as part of a meeting agenda on Tuesday. Every 10 years, local and state authorities update political boundaries in a process known as redistribution. The process could change the representatives of certain neighborhoods, but does not change the borders of cities and counties.
If this all sounds familiar to local residents, maybe it’s because the county went through the same process after the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund successfully filed a lawsuit in 2016 claiming the old district boundaries, established in 2011, depriving Latino residents of their voting rights by diluting their populations across multiple districts.
Two years later, a federal judge ordered the county to create two Latin American-majority districts, in a bid to give Latinos more political power. Still, David Couch, whose district includes northwest Kern County with Arvin, won two elections to stay on the board.
The 2020 census found that people who identify as Hispanic or Latino had become the majority in Kern County for the first time, adding to the argument that people should have more political power in the county.
Perhaps following such logic, two of the three maps drawn by the counties add a third Latin American majority district, while one option leaves the districts largely the same. A fourth map drawn by a group called the Equitable Maps Coalition also includes a third district with a Latin American majority.
“The redistribution process requires that various maps be considered,” county attorney Margo Raison wrote in an email to The Californian. “Starting with three is just a starting point for a smooth and iterative process.”
The Dolores Huerta Foundation, which organized the Equitable Maps Coalition, did not respond to a request for comment.
All new maps except one would drastically realign political boundaries if approved by supervisors. Currently, eastern Kern County is represented by District 1 to the north and District 2 to the south, with District 2 spanning all of southern Kern.
The alternate maps would expand District 1 to encompass all of eastern Kern as well as the southern half of the county. The alternate maps would also add a district to the Rosedale area, which is currently represented by the First District.
Alternative maps vary within their Bakersfield metropolitan area boundaries, but all would include significant demographic changes for supervisors who currently represent the regions.
In public comments the county has already garnered, a handful of citizens expressed support for the Equity Coalition’s map, while others opposed a plan that would move Hart Park from District 3 – currently represented by Mike Maggard – in District 1, which is overseen by Phillip Peters.
“We need to keep the park, Ming Lake, Kern River Parkway and riparian areas adjacent to the river as close to users as possible, where issues can be resolved faster and more efficiently than from the Lancaster area. -Ridgecrest, ”said a woman identified as Margie Bell. “These areas are primarily used by residents of eastern Bakersfield. They need the best service available.
The county will accept additional public comments at its meeting on Tuesday. Following a hearing, supervisors will ask staff to refine the cards for future review.
“We’re just starting this process with the first draft cards,” Raison said. “Any change, whether big or small, remains to be seen.”
You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You can also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.